It’s that time again, the summer where there are no major football tournaments, so the players can have a well-earned rest, can’t they? Well most of them can, but those involved in the not-so-prestigious Confederations Cup will be flocking to Russia to try and get their hands on the Europa League (if that) version of the World Cup. With workers being exploited, and homophobia and racism frequently present in society, I can’t think of a better place to be.
The participants will be the hosts, Russia, the World Cup holders, Germany, and the other countries who have won their respective continental tournaments since the last Confed Cup. These include Portugal, Mexico, Cameroon, Chile, Australia and the mighty New Zealand. The 8 teams are split into 2 groups of 4, with the top 2 from each group progressing to the semi-finals. The final will be held in the new St. Petersburg Arena (or the Kestrovsky Stadium) in, you guessed it, St. Petersburg. On the same day, possibly the most pointless match in the world of football, the 3rd place play-off will be played in Moscow.
It takes just one look at Germany’s squad for the tournament to tell you how much the competition means to them; with just 3 players (Shkodran Mustafi, Matthias Ginter, and Julian Draxler) who won the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 in the squad. Draxler, 23, is captain of a very young side and the whole squad have just 179 caps between them. Compare that with the Portugal squad who have 873 international caps between them. Cristiano Ronaldo is included in Portugal’s squad but, with his tax problems back in Spain, this tournament will hardly be a priority for him.
Other players from English clubs include Alexis Sanchez, Claudio Bravo, Emre Can and Chris Wood, while Burton Albion, Bristol City, and Braintree Town are represented in Russia by some Aussies and Kiwis. Manchester City fans will get to have a good look at new signing Bernardo Silva, who made Portugal’s squad. The winger joined City from Monaco recently for £42m.
The opening match of the Confed Cup is on Saturday between Russia and New Zealand in St. Petersburg, a game that won’t be watched by millions because it’s not the most appetising fixture. However, if you are willing to sit through it, it’s on ITV at 4pm GMT, 6pm in Russia. Expect a swashbuckling display from the Russians who have been urged by Vladimir Putin to play like ‘real warriors.’
New Zealand qualified through winning the OFC Nations Cup, beating footballing powerhouse Papua New Guinea in the final. You may remember the last tournament in Brazil where Tahiti were involved, they lit up the Cup because they were frankly diabolical. Jonathan Tehau scored their only goal against Nigeria, sparking wild celebrations and he became a superstar for the day. They lost the game 6-1 while also conceding 18 goals in 2 games to Uruguay and Spain.
There are no real favourites for the tournament because no one has paid that much attention to it, including those participating. Stay tuned for day-to-day coverage of the most pointless football tournament in the world because it may actually get interesting.